The Phoenix Coyotes have already equaled the number of wins they had last season, but for a team hoping to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years, they know they're going to need many more.
The Coyotes look for their eighth victory in nine games and a season sweep of the Minnesota Wild for the first time in franchise history Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center.
After its season-high six-game winning streak was snapped with a 4-0 loss at Detroit on Saturday, Phoenix (36-19-5) bounced back with Monday's 6-1 victory over Edmonton, its most lopsided win of 2009-10. First-year Coyotes coach Dave Tippett switched Matthew Lombardi from center to right wing Monday and the move paid off in a big way as the 27-year-old had two goals and three assists for a career-high five points.
With the victory, the Coyotes matched last season's win total, when they went 36-39-7. This modest achievement means very little to Tippett.
"I wasn't here last year, so it's inconsequential to me," he said. "We've got to get a lot more before we get to where we're going to get this year."
Phoenix is trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and with the third-best record in the Western Conference it appears to be in good position to accomplish that.
"I think we're proud of what we've done so far," Lombardi said, "but we really don't want to sit back and look at it like that. We've got a long ways to go here. We're trying to build something here and our goal is to make the playoffs."
The play of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is a big reason for the team's success. He made 33 saves against the Oilers and has allowed two goals or fewer in four of his last five games.
Bryzgalov has been in net for each game against the Wild this season, going 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a shutout.
Phoenix has never swept a season series from Minnesota since the Wild entered the league in 2000-01 and its 3-2 win at the Xcel Energy Center on Nov. 18 ended a seven-game losing streak there.
The Wild (29-25-4) have been nearly unbeatable in Minnesota lately, going 8-0-1 at home since Jan. 6. They opened a season-high five-game homestand Thursday with a 4-2 win over Edmonton and followed that up with a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday.
Cal Clutterbuck and Owen Nolan scored Saturday for Minnesota, which is in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the West.
"We need a few more," Nolan said. "We're not going to sit back, we've got to keep climbing the standings."
Niklas Backstrom's return could help that cause. Minnesota's top goaltender is coming off injured reserve after missing six games with a back problem and an unspecified illness. The 2009 All-Star hasn't played since Jan. 23.
Regular backup Josh Harding is out with a hip injury and that left Anton Khudobin to make his first NHL start Saturday, when he made 38 saves to match the most by a Wild goalie this season.
Minnesota's offense is led by Guillaume Latendresse, Mikko Koivu and Antti Miettinen, who are all tied for the team lead with 16 goals. Latendresse recorded his first career hat trick in the last meeting with Phoenix, a 6-4 loss Jan. 16.